Tolerance, it ain’t Acceptance

I could say that everything in life I learned from the Indigo Girls, but that wouldn’t be true. I have been inspired by their activism, collaborative spirit, and creativity. I have been inspired to think in new ways about many things, one of which is the issue of Tolerance and Acceptance.

On one of Amy Ray’s solo albums (she sings the lower parts, has brown hair, and is often a little darker than Emily), she has a song called Laramie, about Matthew Shepherd’s murder without saying so. The lyrics that are particularly meaningful to me:

Poor man do the bidding for the rich man/Those rednecks just doing what the classy fuckers thinking/And tolerance it ain’t acceptance/I know you wanted it to be when you’re out in Laramie

The difference between tolerance and acceptance has become a huge issue for me.  Tolerance means you deal with a situation, belief, person, etc and allow it to be in your presence. Tolerance leads to deeper hate and eventual action of that hate.

Acceptance means you accept a situation, belief, person, etc – not as your own belief, for example, but as something that exists, as someone else’s truth. It doesn’t mean you have to like it, believe it, want to be there. In the end, it really isn’t your decision.

For example. I know someone who is very homophobic. He doesn’t believe that homosexuality is “correct.”  He says he is tolerant of it: “those people can do what they want, but they are wrong.” He does not accept it because “I don’t think they are right and I’m certainly not gay.” I keep trying to tell him that he is not accepting their identity as his own but rather accepting their identity as their own.

That’s the real issue for me, whether it be about sexual identity, faith, quirks, etc. You don’t have to do or be what someone else is. But if we all made a stronger effort to accept others for who they are, what they do, what they believe in…I don’t even know how to finish the sentence in a non-cheesy way. The world would be more peaceful, more friendly, more welcoming, more equal.



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